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Critic's Pick: Jack Nicholson's trifecta of discontent

The Egyptian Theatre is screening "Easy Rider," "Five Easy Pieces" and "The Last Detail," films that earned the actor his first three Oscar nominations.

March 06, 2013
  • Lorna Thayer, left, with Jack Nicholson and Karen Black in the 1970 drama "Five Easy Pieces."
Lorna Thayer, left, with Jack Nicholson and Karen Black in the 1970 drama… (Columbia Pictures )

Feeling a little rebellious? Frustrated with authority? You can't do much better than to spend Saturday night picking fights with Jack Nicholson at the Egyptian Theatre. It's a trifecta of discontent that begins with 1969's "Easy Rider," then 1970's "Five Easy Pieces" before closing with 1973's "The Last Detail." I love all three for the way they show the actor's rising power and so did the academy, nominating Nicholson for an Oscar each time ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" brought his first win in '76). Maybe it's the current cultural climate that makes "Five Easy Pieces" seem the best fit for the moment. Beyond the infamous chicken-salad-sandwich order at the diner, Carole Eastman's script is jammed with the surly spite of a dropout at odds with his privileged past. The movie would be a game-changer for director Bob Rafelson, until then known only for the TV hit "The Monkees." But it is watching Nicholson on the big screen worrying his issues like change in a pocket that is worth the price of admission.

— Betsy Sharkey

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